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Some comments on Louis's,  Jim's, and Michael B's posts.

1. I well remember when Whole Foods came to Berkeley, housing itself in the building that was once the Telegraph Co-op and refusing to have anything to do with unions, thus leading to a years-long boycott. of course Whole Foods is capitalist with a vengeance. Capitalist companies sometimes do grow remarkably and we shouldn't wonder that WF is one of them. It now is having trouble due to typical capitalist problems: over-growth, coupled with wanting too large profits, thus pricing itself out of markets. 

2. The claim  that "this is where it all began" (implicitly about organic food) that WF puts up is nonsense. A few centuries ago, all food was organic. The movement to reinstate that began in England in the 19th c.  

3. Of course, in the "good old days" outbreaks of disease related to food were common. When you use "night soil" on the fields as the Cinese, say, did, there is often contamination. Using manure as fertilizer today can cause similar problems. And as Fernand Braudel points out in "The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II" lowland areas were repeatedly colonized by highland farmers only for them all to die from malaria. 

4. As to Marx's suggestion mentioned by Louis in his blog post, to better integrate city and country, it happens that version of the was instituted in post-war Japan as a method to maintain the dominance of the (rightist) Liberal Democratic party. Rice farmers were heavily subsidized and protected, and rural areas became the centers of many small-scale industries. that is still in place, but the children of farmers now refuse to farm, in many cases, and the sytem seems to be in partial collapse. On the other hand, in the US a closer integration fo city and country is now common place, instantiated by young people moving to farms, farmers markets and various means of ordering direct.  What that means in terms o energy efficiency, pollution and prices is more complex.

5. So where should we go from here? I don't think there is any one answer, but better government regulation, more inspectors, better alternatives to refrigerator trucks spewing exhaust, new crops, better means of integrating city and country, the Alice Waters movement to introduce gardening in public schools, and  a host of other movements, certainly including those who are partly inspired by Michael Pollan all seem worthwhile. Organic by itself is no panacea, ad being torigorus about it may be foolish.  Although I am against the way GM crops are pushed now by Monsnto, etc., I think we should not rule out forms of bioengineering either.  Finally, as I saw first hadn whenI was in DC in the 80's, the Agriculture Dept is nearly totally corrupt and agricultural subsidies are antagonistic to most people and no help to small farms. Subsidies should not be eliminated, because they still do keep some farms going, but they could be altered considerably to do better for all without enriching a few unnecessarily. Getting to any of these places ,I think, will take combination of open minds, unusual alliances, imagination and patience. 


Best,

Michael


On Aug 11, 2008, at 12:12 AM, Michael Balter wrote:

o if "organic" food is not really organic, and even the markets that do sell it idle their trucks and are owned by capitalists and are subject to E. coli infections, what do Louis and Jim suggest that we do? Begin a grassroots campaign to force Whole Foods to sell nothing but organics? Go on hunger strike? Shop at supermarkets that have no pretentions to be anything but capitalist, pesticide-laden retailers? I am not sure where we go with this information.

MB

On Mon, Aug 11, 2008 at 8:17 AM, Jim West <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Louis,

You write, "Whole Foods Market is all about organics."